TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND PANDEMIC FEARS CONTINUE TO BOOST DOMESTIC TRAVEL.
By Molly Simpson
Host Intro: AFTER MONTHS OF TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, STAYCATIONS HAVE BECOME A POPULAR METHOD OF TRAVEL. MAJOR CITIES HAVE CHANGED THEIR MARKETING AND LOOKED TOWARD THE LOCAL PEOPLE. STAYCATIONERS HAVE BEEN EXPERIENCING MORE OF THEIR PROVINCE WHILE DEALING WITH AT-HOME RESTRICTIONS. ARE STAYCATIONS HERE TO STAY? REPORTER MOLLY SIMPSON EXPLAINS.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2021, MACKENZIE ADDISON, FROM SAULT STE. MARIE, VISITED SUDBURY, ONT., AS A TRAVEL DESTINATION. A PREVIOUS ATTEMPT TO TRAVEL WITH FRIENDS WAS STOPPED BY THE PANDEMIC.
Mackenzie Addison [00:11]: So, I went with, like, my boyfriend and his friend, we went to, like, a cabin. But, when we planned to go to Cuba, like the year before, we were going to go with people from the States. But I wouldn’t bring someone else from another country now for a staycation here.
SOME TRAVEL EXPERIENCES WERE A BIT DIFFERENT DURING THE STAYCATION OUTING. ONLY HALF OF THE CABINS WERE FILLED, AND AMENITIES LIKE SAUNA USE AND BOAT RENTALS REQUIRED SPECIAL BOOKINGS.
Mackenzie Addison [00:35]: Like, everyone from each cabin couldn’t all be at the same place at once. And just because of COVID right now, we didn’t go very far from home.
FOR MANY TRAVELLERS, THIS HAS BEEN A SIMILAR REALITY FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. TRAVEL AND COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS HAVE LED TO A DIFFERENT TYPE OF VACATION CLOSER TO HOME. STAYCATIONS CAN MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. HOWEVER, IT CAN MEAN LOCAL, PROVINCIAL OR NATIONAL TRAVEL.
DOMESTIC TRAVEL WAS NOT JUST PURSUED BY TRAVELLERS. ACCORDING TO EMILI BELLEFLEUR, MEDIA MANAGER FOR TOURISME MONTRÉAL, THE CITY HAD BEGUN TO REACH OUT TO LOCAL PATRONS.
Emili Bellefleur [01:12]: Well, I think we just started paying more attention to how we were talking to our locals. So, we started creating experiences and putting out some messages and campaigns that were specifically aimed at our local Montréalers. So, that’s where the staycation kind of came in.
TOURISME MONTRÉAL HAD STARTED THE EUROAD TRIP CAMPAIGN AS NATIONAL TRAVEL OPENED UP. ONTARIO AND CLOSE U.S. STATES ARE THE TARGETS OF THE CAMPAIGN.
[Sound bite of EuRoad Trip commercial—15 seconds]
Emili Bellefleur [01:52]: It was really sort of an extension of the previous campaign that we did over the summer that was called “Montréal, the Island Getaway.” So, we’re not trying to compare ourselves to other popular international destinations, but we’re trying to position Montréal as a place that truly has something amazing to offer.
TOURISME MONTRÉAL LOWERED PRICES ON THE PRE-EXISTING MONTRÉAL PASSPORT FROM $95 TO $57 BETWEEN JUNE 14TH AND OCTOBER 11TH OF 2021. THE MONTREAL PASSPORT ALLOWED VISITORS TO CHOOSE FIVE DIFFERENT DESTINATIONS INSIDE THE CITY SUCH AS THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS OR THE MONTREAL BOTANICAL GARDEN. CURRENTLY, THE PASSPORT IS NOT OFFERED, HOWEVER, IT IS EXPECTED TO RETURN IN THE SPRING.
STAYCATIONS AND A SMALLER MARKETING STRATEGY ARE NOT NEW CONCEPTS FOR SOME CITIES. HAMILTON, ONT., HAS OFTEN BEEN A SMALLER TOURIST DESTINATION. ACCORDING TO DANA BORCEA, THE TOURISM MARKETING OFFICER FOR TOURISM HAMILTON, THE CITY MARKETS TOWARD LEISURE VISITORS. THESE ARE VISITORS FROM 40 KM OR MORE.
Dana Borcea [03:00]: So, within leisure marketing, we’re promoting the Hamilton experience. We do that by focusing on sort of regional travel. So, we’re not again, looking to target somebody from Vancouver or China necessarily to come to Hamilton, Ontario. That’s not realistic.
INSTEAD, HAMILTON FOCUSED ON THE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE TO THE SAME GROUPS OF PEOPLE AS BEFORE.
Dana Borcea [03:20]: When COVID first started in 2020, we were actually shocked to see sort of, like, almost a record-breaking surge in our website numbers. So, all of our campaigns and blogs and content around hiking, waterfalls, all that stuff have always been popular in Hamilton just because of our topography and geography. But we saw a real surge when the pandemic started that continues to this day.
DESPITE SUCCESSES SEEN IN HAMILTON, THERE ARE OTHER SECTORS IMPACTED. GARY FINCHAM, OWNER OF THE OSLER HOUSE, AN UPSCALE BED AND BREAKFAST IN DUNDAS, ONT. (LOCATED IN HAMILTON), HAS HAD FEWER GUESTS VISITING. THIS IS A MIX OF COVID RESTRICTIONS AND A SEEMING LACK OF INTEREST.
Gary Fincham [04:10]: Next weekend, for instance, is full, but haven’t had very, well, certainly I don’t think I’ve had any four nights so far this year. And here we are at in mid-March.
FINCHAM, WHO WILL BE RETIRING IN OCTOBER DOES NOT HAVE MUCH LONGER TO WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF HIS BED AND BREAKFAST. BUT FILLING ROOMS FOR OTHERS IN THE HOSPITALITY BUSINESS WILL BE AN ONGOING ISSUE.
ONTARIO, HOWEVER, HAS PUT FORWARD A NEW STAYCATION TAX CREDIT FOR 2022 MEANT TO HELP TOURISM BUSINESSES RECOVER AFTER THE PANDEMIC, ACCORDING TO THE ONTARIO WEBSITE. THE TAX CREDIT WOULD SUPPORT $200 FOR AN INDIVIDUAL TRAVELLER OR $400 FOR A FAMILY GOING ON STAYCATION ACCORDING TO THE PROVINCE’S FALL ECONOMIC STATEMENT. ONTARIO RESIDENTS CAN CLAIM ACCOMMODATION EXPENSES UNDER THIS CREDIT.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL LIKELY WON’T BE BACK TO FULL CAPACITY FOR SEVERAL MORE YEARS EXPLAINED JEAN-SÉBASTIEN BOUDREAULT, CEO OF ASSOCIATION DES HÔTELS DU GRAND MONTRÉAL. WHEN VACATIONS DO RETURN HOWEVER:
Jean-Sébastien Boudreault [05:15]: I think it’s here to stay, maybe not as important and international travellers will, you know, take over, but it’s going to take a few years before tourism goes back to where it used to be like in 2018 or 2019.
SOME HAVE BEGUN TRAVELLING AS INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS LIFT. HAMILTON RESIDENT DIANE BILI TRAVELLED TO LOS CABOS, MEXICO, FOR VACATION IN NOVEMBER OF 2021. BILI EXPLAINED THAT TO LEAVE MEXICO, A TRAVELLER NEEDED TO PASS A PCR TEST TO BOARD THE PLANE BACK TO CANADA. ONCE IN CUSTOMS, TRAVELLERS FACED CHALLENGES WITH KIOSK MACHINES AND RANDOM PCR TESTS.
Diane Bili [05:55]: So, then when we came back to Canada, we filled out all of our forms and what have you. And the customs were so full, it was absolutely insane. And even though you’ve done all of this electronic on your app, you still have to go to one of the kiosks and then almost redo it again.
VACCINATED TRAVELLERS MUST USE THE ARRIVECAN APP CURRENTLY UPON RETURNING TO CANADA, ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA WEBSITE.
ONE PERSON IS STILL LIKELY TO STAYCATION AS INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL OPENS UP. RICK ZAMPERIN, A HAMILTON RESIDENT WHO VISITED NIAGARA FALLS AMID THE PANDEMIC, SAID OF VACATIONS:
Rick Zamperin [06:31]: You know, the what ifs kind of come into play. What if there’s an outbreak in the places we visit? What if we have to quarantine far beyond our return date? You know, now we’re missing work.
FOR HIM, DOMESTIC TRAVEL IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE A FUTURE CONSIDERATION.
WHILE TRAVELLERS MAY STILL WANT TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF CANADA, TOURIST HOTSPOTS ARE EMBRACING LOCAL TOURISM AND STAYCATIONS. FOR DMJ RADIO, THIS WAS MOLLY SIMPSON.